Thursday, March 29, 2012

C.V? See ya!

The impending compulsory switchover to Facebook Timeline means we no longer have to be concerned only about our time online since opening our account, but our lives pre-social media. People are going right back through the years and throwing down the gauntlet in terms of "look at me, my life has been so much better than yours". I've got Facebook friends who have been filling in Leaving Certificate results, awards won in school and stints on cheese commercials aged 6 (I kid you not). It's raising the bar in terms of personal achievement surely?

It got me thinking about C.Vs.

Look at me!

I did this!

Aren't I great?

The C.V is the original "like my post", "follow me", "let's connect".

I hate the C.V. As a jobseeker, my life revolves around it; my entire employable worth gathered together in black and white. Right?

Wrong! So much about the people we need to hire can't be conveyed in a traditional C.V.

Then there's the rules:

Keep it brief, no more than 2 pages.

Provide detail but don't waffle.

Give specific dates.

Don't give specific dates.

Give references as standard.

Don't bother with references.

Detail hobbies.

Don't detail hobbies.

By the time I navigate the minefield that is the C.V template, format, rules and advice, my C.V. is no more an accurate representation of me as a person than knowing my shoe size or that I'm allergic to certain types of plasters.

There are jobs where the path is clearly defined; doctor, lawyer, cop. You go to a certain college or institution where they teach you specific skills and then you go work in one field. Simples.

However, I'm very much of the opinion that, for most people, what you don't know can most definitely be learned and less emphasis should be placed on educational experience and more on attitude to work and learning.

Question: If, like Timeline, we could see the C.Vs and applications of everyone else applying to the job we want, how would our attitudes to our own application change?

I recently had the experience of applying for a position as a social media intern. I didn't get the job but it has given me an insight into how we can miss out on the important qualities in candidates when we stick rigidly to the C.V. and cover letter format for recruiting. The job description was specific; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, blogging. As a result of the need to show off my experience with social media I was able to add another dimension to my application, something that other "traditional" job applications don't allow.

My C.V and cover letter (email) were accompanied by a link to my page. Here I was able to overcome the first of my C.V. hurdles: "To hobby or not to hobby?" I used my page to highlight the sort of stuff I get up to when I'm not at work. I then included links to this blog, my public LinkedIn profile and my Twitter account. So far so social. I was already providing this company with a much greater insight into me as a person than any other potential employer ever and, for the first time in a long time, I felt I was selling me and not just "work" me.

So my job hunt has me examining my achievements and Facebook has me examining my experiences and there are many times where these overlap. It got me thinking as to the relevance of some life experiences and how the traditional C.V makes no allowances for them.

I spent some wonderful years working for local radio station Dublin's Q102. During my time there I drove Betsy: the official station ice-cream van, posed as a mermaid in City Hall for the St. Patrick's Day treasure hunt, went door to door dressed as Santa Claus in June, performed the YMCA on a packed DART during morning rush-hour and orchestrated a bus ambush where we stormed various buses around Dublin, handing out free Pat The Baker products. All of these, whilst great memories in themselves, speak to the sort of person I am and the type of employee I am; I'll do what is asked, I'm not afraid to make a total eejit of myself and I'm willing to go the extra mile (that was a handmade mermaid costume, by the way). Of course you'll find none of these on my C.V. I'm very proud of a promotion I ran for that same radio station in 2007. It was called "The Summer of 10,000 Tickets" and I was solely responsible for it. I sourced the tickets, coordinated the schedules, put together all the briefs for the on-air staff. So fantastically good was I at it that I managed to extend the promotion by 2 hours a day and a further 12 days in total before it had even started. So far so C.V. What I can't put in my C.V. is that I was suffering from kidney failure at the time and coordinated the final details for the promotion, post-op, from a bed in the renal ward in St. Vincent's University Hospital. My C.V. also won't tell you that 2 weeks after surgery I was out coordinating new team members for the massive event that was the midnight launch of the final Harry Potter book. There was a time I was holding down 3 jobs. Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm I was working in a genetic research lab. In the evenings I was working for an events company handing out glasses of bubbly to socialites and yummy mummies in high-end department stores and weekends were spent working for the radio station and fitting in more lab experiments. None of this can make the C.V without sounding waffley and, let's be honest, a little self-indulgent. Yet it all speaks volumes about my personality and my work-ethic; when I commit to a project I'm going to commit the hell out of it!

At what point can we get rid of the CV? I'd love to see social media spell the end of the CV. Cheerio to the "I look like I'm better than you on paper" attitude to job hunting.

Someday I'll be in the position to hire some new recruits; I won't be asking for CV's or application forms, I'll be asking them to engage with me, and my company, on any level they'd like. There will be no application forms with tricky questions, I'll simply ask them to sell themselves to me as a person, as a brand and not just as an employee.

Never hire someone whom you can't see outgrowing the company one day. They are the people who will help you take it to the next level.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Keeping Customers "Tweet"

INNOCENT? Not likely! They know what they're doing and are damn good at it too!

I've been encouraging himself for a while now to embrace the awesome power of social media. It's not just for lol catz and stalking old school friends. Yesterday he got to 200 Twitter followers and marked the occasion with a tweet and an acknowledgment of the follower. This just happened to be the official account for Innocent Ireland.
Hmmm, I expressed my surprise that they weren't already following him. Sure only the other week hadn't they turned up at a rival station literally metres away, in their funky grass covered van and handed out loads of fruity goodies.

He politely tweeted to them this morning "I hear you called into a small radio station just around the corner and didn't pop in to say hello."
Less than 2 hours later he emerged from the studio to discover 2 goodie bags, crammed full of lovely fruity stuff (including socks) hand delivered by Innocent with a great personal note.

He tweeted, I tweeted, envious co-workers in the station tweeted. Innocent replied to us all. It was an absolute masterclass in how brands use social media to promote themselves. Right down to the inclusion of 10 alphabet magnets, cleverly spelling out his name.

I've always loved how Innocent promote themselves. The quirky little messages on their packaging, the annual Big Knit which sees their bottles topped with wooly hats for charity; and of course my absolute favourite is the grass covered promo vehicles. They are a perfect example of how a company does branding and does it exceptionally well. When it comes to being business savy they are anything but innocent.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I do! Don't I?

It's February 29th. Apparently I'm supposed to propose to himself today because he hasn't gotten round to it yet. He hasn't gotten round to doing the garden either but I'm fecked if I'm going to do that for him too!

Twitter this morning was swamped with pseudo-feminist tweets about how it's disgraceful in this day and age that we are discussing this whole women proposing to men leap year charade and women should be allowed to propose whenever they like. Now last I checked they were ACTUALLY allowed to propose however, wherever, whenever and to whomever they liked but it appears these grumpy tweeters have their knickers in a knot over the fact that the tradition still exists. I'm still of the opinion that it's "feminists" like that who give the rest of us a bad name. What's wrong with the tradition? It's not doing anyone any harm as far as I can tell and there is a certain sweetness to the whole thing. If you're into that sort of thing.

I'm not.

It's not for me. Not just the whole Feb 29th but proposing in general. Not a snowballs chance in hell I'd propose to himself, ever. I don't buy into the whole fairytale, Prince Charming, big white church wedding milarky but I still want to be swept off my feet. What IS the point in having cake if you can't eat it?

Now don't get me wrong, I do want to marry him and he's under no illusions as to the fact that he had better produce a ring at some stage (our daughter is about to turn 3). Though I can understand any hesitation on that part because if he picks out one that I don't like or worse is just truly shockingly awful then not only will there be no engagement but I might just have to leave him forever for demonstrating how little he actually knows me. That would devastate us both I'm sure. I've also found I have some pretty strong views on how I would like it to go down or more to that point how it SHOULDN'T go down.

They are as follows:
He cannot propose for Valentine's Day, My Birthday, Mother's Day, Our Anniversary or Christmas. There's just something about a proposal at a time when you normally receive gifts that seems to scream "I'd no idea what to get you so..." See, I'm clearly a hopeless romantic. My sickly sweet sentiments don't stop there. Another reason to not link a proposal to a life event is if the relationship goes belly-up I don't want to be reminded of that every year. Like a couple I know who had a Jeremy Kyle-style break-up and divorce who also had made the unfortunate decision to get married on her Birthday. Keep them separate people, neat and tidy. I also think that you shouldn't propose in and around other people's big life events. You don't want to take away from best friend's wedding, baby, new job, or indeed someone elses engagement by having your own newer news. It's from the same set of unwritten rules that says you don't steal baby names. It's just rude.

The ring (which if you're reading this Liam needs to be size: i1/2 - j) can't be yellow gold. I'm exceptionally pale and yellow gold makes me look like I'm terminal. I'd like the diamond itself to be man-made, manufactured, grown in a lab. I don't want to look down at it and every time wonder if someone somewhere in some god-forsaken country suffered or died for my pretty piece of bling. After that I'm pretty easy.
Once you get through all my terms and conditions, remembering of course to ask the bill payers permission first, I reckon I'd be pretty easy to propose to with just a little bit of military precision.

If he ever does get round to it, I'll let you know.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Job Wanted

Job seeking. Job hunting. C.V.s. Cover Letters. Skillsets. LinkedIn. #jobfairy. The "hidden" jobs market.

It's just as well I'm unemployed because honestly it's turned into a full-time job in itself. When I was younger I wanted to be many things; a pilot, a marine biologist, an actress, a teacher. It was the last one that led me to science in UCD. I slogged away for years working towards a joint honours degree in molecular genetics and biochemistry, even managing to take time out for some kidney failure and surgery in my final year. I graduated in 2008 and landed a great lab job with my thesis supervisor.

I didn't know it yet but looking back now it's clear that something was missing.

I enjoyed the people I worked with, the work wasn't difficult and I was quite happily working 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday. I'd a second part-time job too and most weekends found me starting in the lab then heading off to the second gig before coming back to do more lab work. If there hadn't been a dramatic change in my personal circumstances I'd probably have continued on that way.

It was early 2009 whilst pregnant that I became violently ill. We almost lost our daughter who was delivered 14 weeks early. In a split second all priorities had changed. If I was going to leave the house to go to work and be away from her I had to make damn sure that whatever I was leaving the house for was worth it. Only being mother to one I'm not sure if this change in attitude was brought about by the simple act of becoming a mum or if the soap opera-type circumstances under which she arrived were the cause. All I knew was I couldn't go back.

As luck would have it whilst on maternity leave the funding for my research group wasn't renewed and I found myself not having to personally make the decision to look elsewhere. My luck then continued and I landed a wonderful theatre gig; working evenings which slotted perfectly in with my partners job where he works mornings. The lab seemed so very far away. I met some incredible people and realised that, much as I enjoyed my time in the lab, it wasn't really for me. I'd found myself surrounded by creative, vibrant and interesting people. No two days were ever the same, even though the work was. I'd had a taste of life without the lab coat and I liked it.

Possibly one of the hardest decisions I've ever made though was to turn my back on science. After all I'd devoted 7 years to it and it had come to define me. When your entire life revolves around one thing it can be very hard to take that step back and try and picture your life any differently. It was like a very messy relationship break-up. Then there's the justification that everyone else seemed to need. Why would I spend all that time if I wasn't really that into it? Why did I waste my parents' hard earned cash to pay for college to study something I didn't like? The concept that I had managed to fall-out of love with science seemed alien to those who'd all ended up with careers in industries they'd studied for. There's also the fact that having devoted so much time to a specific area you can end up feeling like there's nothing else you can do, not only just in terms of experience but there were times when I felt like I literally wasn't good enough to do anything else. Dark times which generally led to sofa dates with Ben & Jerry.

In September 2011 I met a wonderful woman by the name of Edel, a career guidance counsellor. Without wanting to sound too dramatic I can honestly say meeting her changed my life. For the first time I began to look at myself in terms of employment through someone elses eyes. Through her eyes. She helped me put the final nail in the coffin of my science career and inspired me to look to more creative areas where I was much more suited.

It's not been easy. Since November I've been constantly searching for the position that's just for me. A place where I'll be both valuable and valued. I'm looking for an organisation that is efficient, useful and engaging. Where, even at entry level, I'll have the opportunity to sound out new ideas and get involved in exciting projects. I'm busy building up my own personal brand and every day I'm on the hunt.

It's ironic that this year, 2012, the year when Dublin is the City of Science, I'm hoping to lay the lab to rest once and for all and embrace the new creative working-me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ni thuigim an ceist.

Why we are striving to be a bilingual family.

Today we received the wonderful news that madam has a place in the local Naionra come September. For anyone not familiar with the Naionra it's a playgroup for children run entirely through the medium of Irish. Here's a link to their website:

I've always lamented my lack of Irish and I feel sorry for us as a nation that our national language is not actually our national language. I've even gone so far at times to suggest that all primary schools be Gaelscoils but that's a debate for another day.

As well as not having a fantastic grasp of Irish I also regret my lack of any other language. My French (which I studied for 6 years) is basic at best yet is infinitely better than my Irish (which I studied for 14 years). This got me thinking about how Irish is taught and learned in schools. The only Irish learning image I can conjure up from my school days is of my burly 6th class teacher screaming "Bhí, ni raibh" over and over whilst banging her fist on the blackboard. Attitudes to Irish in the classroom can be rather negative and kids aren't inspired to learn the language.

I come from an English speaking family. Primary school and Irish lessons were my first introduction to "foreign" languages. My experience of Irish wasn't great and lead me to mistakenly believe I wasn't good at languages in general. This thought followed me throughout my entire school career and left me feeling defeated before I even started.

What if my experience of learning Irish had been better? Would that have made a difference when I later tried my hand at French, German and Spanish?

What if I could make sure my daughter's experience of learning Irish was better than mine? If I could giver her a head start perhaps, unlike me, she wouldn't struggle to learn the language. Surely a positive experience learning her first new language would put her in a better position for learning other modern languages and, in turn, further her prospects.

So we made the decision to incorporate Irish into our lives. Neither of us is fluent so most full sentences elude us. We have found however that even simple word swaps have had a huge impact. Sofa is now tolg, up is suas and so on. The purchase of "Gaschaint" and the gift of a Babog Bear ( have been a massive help.
Our daughter, who is not yet three, can count to 20 in English, Irish and Spanish; sometimes switching fluidly between the 3. She also knows her colours in all 3, shapes in the first 2 and lots of other random words and phrases.

We've already seen the benefits of teaching her from an early age that there are many ways to say the same thing and I'd recommend it to any parent. I'm sure the day will come when her Irish will be better than mine and I won't know she's giving out about me to her friends but I guess it will still be a proud moment. She'll still be grounded though.